Validation of Assumptions and Estimates
The number one problem area that I have encountered is the failure to validate assumptions and estimates early in the project. The key mitigation here is to qualify estimates by detailed discovery work undertaken in the initiation phase. This means, for example, that if you are deploying a solution to 50 buildings, then undertake a detailed audit of those building to form the baseline requirements. Don't just guess or use estimates.
This detailed work should provide the ability for a project to:
- Validate what the value driver is for the investor and that it can be achieved by the proposed approach
- Define clear and explicit work packages as part of the initiation stage including estimated budget and schedule for the work
- Develop a reporting structure that clearly articulates progress and expenditure based on the defined work packages
- Develop stakeholder reporting that shows what value, or value drivers, each work package delivers
Lack of Project work culture
As a general statement, the ability of a project to be successful is directly proportional to the maturity of the project work culture. Assessing whether a 'project work culture' exists requires observation of the environment that project work is being undertaken. Key elements of a good project culture are:
- Good collaboration exists between staff within and across team boundaries. If project leadership need to intervene to get cross team work completed, there is little chance for a project being delivered on time and within budget.
- Project priorities are communicated and widely known by all staff. If so, there is no conflict in priorities and there is one authoritative source for this information.
- Work in progress is controlled. That is, WIP is minimized to align the amount of work with the capacity to achieve this work.
- There is no Multitasking. Multitasking is a sign of poor project priorities and little or no control over WIP.
- Project Buffers are managed. This is where the buffers are not at the task level but managed across the entire project and is a key performance indictor.
- Critical date management is in place rather than managing to a strict schedule.
- Functional alignment is established. This simply means that everyone that may impact the outcome of the project has the project as a goal in his or her performance management assessment.
- Schedule risk is managed. That requires an understanding of what items are likely to negatively impact the schedule and putting in place mitigation strategies.
The lack of each of these items increases the likelihood of project difficulties and failure.